November 08, 2003

Shark Blog on K-12 in Seattle

Shark Blog, by Stefan Sharkansky, reports from Seattle on "Current Events, Smarter Investing and Fatherhood". Shark Watch has been keeping close watch on the local school board, the latest school board elections, and the recent superintendent search. Stefan Sharkansky's articles are rife with links, and I advise the reader to visit the original. It is a great Blog. Here are a few links to recent entries on education, with just a snippet from each.

Seattle School Board (Nov 5, 2003).

The Seattle School Board has been captured by the loony-toons slate of Sally Soriano, Brita Butler-Wall, Darlene Flynn and Irene Stewart.

[...] Two of the new board members (Soriano and Butler-Wall) were endorsed by the Green Party, whose goal is to "transform pre-K-20 education in Seattle in alignment with all 10 Key Values of the Green Party of Seattle, through research, education, and advocacy". [...] Both Soriano and Butler-Wall propose eliminating the high-stakes WASL test, because the "use of WASL scores to label racial blocs of students as failures also constituted institutional racism" and/or because it reinforces the "public's perceptions about the 'failure' of our schools".

Putting the "achievement gap" in perspective (Nov 3, 2003).

Darlene Flynn, who has been endorsed by the teachers' union, might find it easier to blame an abstract bogeyman like "institutional racism" than to roll up her sleeves, understand the actual issues and propose actual solutions to actual problems.

Brita Butler-Wall and her nutty delusions (Nov 1, 2003).

It might be tempting to some people to blame an abstract bogeyman like "racism" for the underachievement of some children. But Brita Butler-Wall either suffers from delusions, or she doesn't bother look at the school system's actual data, or both.

First of all, although the population of Seattle is only 8% black, about 25% of the school systems' administrators are black. If that's attributable to institutional racism, it's probably not the sort of racism that Brita Butler-Wall is fantasizing about.

Second, the school system's performance data [large PDF] indicates that by a number of quantitative measures (e.g. high school GPA, graduation rates, attendance rates, test scores, expulsion rates), Asian students (especially Japanese, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese) outperform white students, and Latino students are doing better than black students. How this is explained by a lack of "recognition that people come from a variety of cultures" or a lack of books in foreign languages, is a big mystery to me.

Sally Soriano (Oct 31, 2003).

Soriano is right to be concerned about the disparity in achievement between different ethnic groups, but I am unpersuaded by her understanding of the problem or its solutions: [...]

The district can tackle this problem by reducing class sizes, giving teachers more time to collaborate with each other and embedding the curriculum with awareness of racism, sexism and classism, Soriano said.

I have no idea what "embedding the curriculum with awareness of sexism" actually means, or what it has to do with the achievement of black students. Furthermore, under the Soriano regime, we would never know whether or not we were making progress on the achievement gap, because:

Sally Soriano said the use of WASL scores to label racial blocs of students as failures also constituted institutional racism.

Naturally, Soriano is endorsed by all the elements of the clueless, lunatic left, including: Green Party of Seattle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and both weekly newspapers.

Seattle Superintendent Saga (Oct 6, 2003).

The attempt to recruit a superintendent for Seattle public schools continues to spiral out of control, as the hysterically self-interested teacher unions have trashed the only qualified candidates with the active assistance of the local newspapers. The second of the four finalists withdrew her name from consideration today, writing that

increasing polarization of this process makes it difficult to accomplish a common vision for educational leadership.

the school district's search consultant added that

all the candidates have been publicly humiliated and harassed. They felt the media coverage was very unprofessional.


Now, the only candidates left standing are the very impressive former Cincinnati superintendent Dr. Steven Adamowski and the less capable (but union favorite) Dr. Evelyn Williams Castro.

Seattle has a new superintendent (Oct 7, 2003).

The Seattle superintendent selection saga ended tonight, at least for now. The school board voted 6-1 to name interim superintendent Raj Manhas as superintendent on a one-year contract with an option to extend for a second year. I attending this evening's school board meeting. It was less a business meeting for a public authority than a group therapy session. It reminded me of the house meetings at the co-op where I lived my sophomore year of college.

Thanks to Number 2 Pencil (Kimberly Swygert) for her link to Shark Blog.

Posted by Bas Braams at 04:21 PM | Comments (0)